They Call It “The Big C”

Behind the door, locked away by anger and irrational fear, is a killer. They call it “the big C”.

Photo by / Runnyrem

We are warned against this enemy by the media, the medical profession, by parents and loved ones, by those who are its’ victims, by famous people who donate money and time to the war against this killer and by our own inner protector. Are we listening?

She says “Butt out!”

He replies “Why? We all have to go sometime.”

When deciding what to eat or wear; what lifestyles are best; what treatments work and what really is the truth; the majority of concerned individuals allow their own common sense to make the decisions. They know from their searches and studies that tobacco; being overweight; indulging in alcohol; bottled negativity from worry, stress, frustration and jealousy; are to be avoided yet should you attempt to remind them of the dangers these toxins present the result is petulance to be followed by arguments and expletives. Being brave and determined to get their attention you assert the added risks associated with such things as UV radiation; menopause; certain pesticides; pollution; and too much red meat. Get prepared for yelling, slammed doors, the silent treatment and a change of strategy.

Photo by / Florian Wehde

Our bodies are adept at detecting, processing and removing toxins up to a point. Somehow we survive the congestion that exists day after day within a busy metropolis, however, when at last our bodies can no longer handle the abuse, our strength begins to dissipate and our depleted measure of health disappears. At that moment we begin to manufacture a host of carcinogens, an army of poisons, invading the bone marrow, the mammary glands, the liver and stomach. In the background can be heard the faint refrains of a familiar death march.

The poison stored in cells begins to spread into the lungs and the kidneys and the inevitable visit to the doctor yields the diagnosis: my dear patient you have cancer.

Photo courtesy of National Cancer Institute

Ten million people die from cancer every year. Seventy percent of those deaths are people from middle to low income countries. One third of all known cancers are preventable. It is a constant threat throughout our life. The longer we live the greater the possibility of death. Unfortunately, for some of us, there may exist a genetic predisposition to developing cancer. No matter how healthy, we may think we are, there is never a time to stop being vigilant. Be on the watch for unusual lumps or swelling; be aware of persistent breathlessness and bouts of coughing. Are you having difficulty swallowing? Any unexpected bleeding when going to the bathroom? You love looking good, but losing weight unintentionally could be a sign of cancer. A serious case of tiredness, fatigue or lethargy might be the precursor to disease. Those heavy night sweats could be signaling you are ill and not just going through a change of life. Sadly the list goes on.

Photo by/ Priscilla DuPreez

Talking once again, you and your friend arrange for lunch. Gently you begin by asking him to relate what happened during the last visit to the doctor. He admits to some of the symptoms already mentioned in the previous paragraph. ‘I told you so’ never leaves your lips. He explains that he had attributed those potential signs to arthritis; old age; indigestion; the flu. He pauses, then stares into the distance. “It’s the big C”, I got cancer.”

In the same gentle tone, with added patience and genuine concern you find out what kind of cancer, what size and where is it, has it started to spread. Your friend has lost the bold bravado. He admits he is scared. You muster up some courage and reassure him you are going nowhere. You will be by his side. The first thing is getting a second opinion. Together you will find a specialist who will listen to his concerns, explain in plain language what he has and what are his treatment options. You know your friend will need a doctor who understands him, someone who will care.

Today, millions are joining in the fight against this enemy. There are those volunteering their time and expertise in laboratories around the world; others championing the cause and donating monies gathered from charity walks and runs; and many famous and unknown voices giving of their time and talent to make sure we do not forget the dangers presented in our daily lives that invite this killer into our homes.

People are living longer. People are living with a quality of life worth living. Battles are being fought and won. A poet by the name of Dylan Thomas, when writing on the themes of suffering, grief and death, penned these words:

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’

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